OBJECTION #4: “Why is God allowed to permit terrible acts of evil, when this would be immoral for a person to do?”

Atheist B.C. Johnson writes,

Consider a bystander who had nothing to do with starting the fire but who refused to help even though he could have saved the child with no harm to himself. Could such a bystander be called good? Certainly not. If we would not consider a mortal human being good under these circumstances, what grounds could we possibly have for continuing to assert the goodness of an all-powerful God?[1]

Michael Martin writes,

Sometimes when people are in distress no human can or will come to their aid. Given His unlimited powers, in these cases God is certainly able to come to their aid without danger to Himself… Thus if God were a human being, His failure to come to the aid of people in distress would probably be considered a tort even in common law countries.[2]

In response to this, a couple of points can be made:

First, God has certain moral rights over human life that we don’t. Philosopher Richard Swinburne writes, “God as the author of our being would have rights over us that we do not have over our fellow humans.”[3] Because of this fact, it is God’s prerogative to end human life –whether sooner or later. Similarly, a parent has certain rights over their own children, which they do not have over other children. Since God is the creator and sustainer of all people, then he decides how long we get to live. God takes everyone’s life in the end. This is called death. We acknowledge this, when a surgeon is bringing someone back to life. We might say that he is “playing God.” God allows everyone to die; the question is –when? We live everyday –not as a right –but by the mercy of God.

Second, because all people are sinful, we do not have moral rights over God. When apologist R.C. Sproul was asked why God allows bad things to happen to good people, he said, “I haven’t met any good people yet, so I don’t know.”[4]We can’t judge God for allowing our lives to end, because we have no moral basis to do so.

Next Page

[1] Pojman, Louis P. “B.C. Johnson “Why Doesn’t God Intervene to Prevent Evil?”.” Philosophy: the Quest for Truth. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 91-92.

[2] Martin, Michael. Atheism: a Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1990. 389.

[3] Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 2004. 257.

[4] Cited in Rhodes, Ron. Why Do Bad Things Happen If God Is Good? Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 2004. 68.